Convergent Evolution

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(The following may or may not have been overheard while driving an imported luxury car in Guangzhou; names have been changed to protect, well, nothing. They don’t matter in the slightest.)

In the back seat of a Mercedes S 550, Zhu Wiaofing, Ministry of Transport Apparatchik, is dialling his mobile. In distant Beijing, Li Wibao, Zhu’s nephew in a windowless office of the Chinese internet censor, answers the phone.

LI:
Hello, uncle. Your voice sings to me like a spring breeze, but I must not accept personal calls at work. It would abuse the trust of our brothers and sisters throughout the nation and our wise superiors in the Party.

ZHU:
Cut the crap, kid. I got you that job, which means I got pull over ‘your wise superiors’. Do me a favour, will ya?

LI:
If it pleases the party…

ZHU:
It’ll please me, and that’s all you got to worry about just now.

LI:
Very well. What can I do?

ZHU:
Some new terms for you to block: Piaget Emperador and Omega Constellation. How long will that take? Oh, and some joker is blogging under the name ‘Huaguoshanzonshuji’. Block that too, pronto.

LI:
Whatever for, dear uncle? Are these new weapons we will use to defend our Han homeland from external aggression? Is this, ugh, ‘blogger’ a traitor?

ZHU:
Okay, first thing, buckaroo, when guys like me tell guys like you to block something, don’t ask why. But since you could clearly use it, I’ll educate you. The Piaget and Omega thingees are watches. Very expensive watches. And the Huaguo-whatever character is telling everyone I have them.

LI:
And you are defending your name from this slander?

ZHU:
Cute. No, they’re what me and your aunt wear.

LI:
But then why must you block these? I have unrestricted access to Western propaganda, and I have never heard of them. None of our dear comrades will know what these words mean, and they certainly wouldn’t question the wisdom and right of someone in your position to own them!

ZHU:
Exactly. Try to keep up, kiddo. Some sales rep. gave them to me in Davos last month. It was hilarious, you shoulda been there. He was bowing and everything. Anyway, I got these watches that are apparently bloody expensive, but nobody’s ever heard of them. Since most of the mindless blobs you ride the train with have never heard of them, they might as well be plastic toys from McDonald’s. If we’re supposed to wear the damn things, they gotta be known.

LI:
Er, I see. But if you want people to know about your expensive watches, why have you also told me to block the blogger from telling everyone? He is working for you, is he not?

ZHU:
Yeah, but since people don’t know anything about the watches, they’ll only get the message about how extravagant they are if we tell them about the guys wearing them, i.e. me. We’re the guys who can get stories about this kinda stuff blocked. Farmer Wen and Middle Manager Wu understand that. If you want people to know you can block something, you can either block reports about your watch and make sure everybody knows about it, which make you look like a king, or you can block something like how we buy our concrete from factories with slaves, which, if you make it public, makes you look like a demon.

LI:
That’s….That’s diabolical! How dare you!

ZHU:
Bun that hair, Pollyanna. I’m the one calling you, giving YOU instructions. Don’t forget that. I told your mother you’d take after that ‘delicate flower’ father of yours. Besides, it’s not even my idea.

LI:
You mean you’ve been ordered to do this? By the party?!?

ZHU:
Shut up and listen. We’re the party. You and me and the rest of the guys who push the buttons, know what the buttons do, and know that the buttons even exist. No, I didn’t hear it from any of my higher-ups, but they’ll love it. I actually got the idea from some Mexican drug dealer. Get this. So Carlos gets himself some tigers, but who cares? You’ve gotta feed ‘em, like, a cow a month, crack is cheaper than the vet bills, and you’ve gotta turn your jacuzzi into a litter box. I mean, Siegfried and Roy had tigers. Who wants a freakin’ tiger? Lame, right? But Carlos is smart. He got some pictures on an ‘underground’ blog, showing his tigers swimming in a pool with girls in bikinis. Hot right? Chicks are so into you, they’ll swim naked with tigers! That’s aspirational and clever, but it gets better. Who knew a coke dealer who never went to school could be so freakin’ genius? He then sends some peons to disembowel some people and hang ‘em from a bridge with a sign saying something like “We’re bloggers, and this is what happens to us.” And nobody does nothing. Un-freakin’ touchable. Are the people and guts hangin’ from the bridge really the bloggers? Who knows, who cares? The sign really says, “Don’t mess with dudes with tigers. They’re the guys who can disembowel you, tell the world about it, and nothing happens. No consequences whatsoever.” Brilliant, isn’t it? Screw bikinis! They’re aspirational; this is unobtainable. You just went from king to god. So I figure, “I don’t have any tigers, and don’t want any, but I got these watches nobody’s ever heard of. Might pass for exotic. And I don’t have any psychotic coke heads with nothing to lose, but I got a nephew with a password.” Not bad, eh? Uncle’s still got it, don’t he?

LI:

ZHU:
You still there? You’re not crying are you?

LI:
I… I don’t know what to say. I knew that we sometimes have to filter the truth, but for the good of the Party and the Nation. This is just… just sick. It makes me sick. Maybe the Americans are right. Maybe our system is irretrievably corrupt. Maybe they will prevail.

ZHU:
You know better than to praise the ankees-Yay on the own-phay. My sister would be devastated if you were re-educated, though I’m inclined to think it would do you a world of good. Besides, I think they’re doing more or less the same thing.

LI:
What? They can take their own government to court and win! The police and even the parties are subject to the law! They can say any truth or untruth in any medium. They can’t disembowel each other without consequences, and they can talk about their possessions with pride!

ZHU:
You’re on the right track, but you’re not at the terminal yet. Keep thinking. See, me and an old buddy of mine at CNOOC have been wondering about this. How do you show pull, leverage, untouchability when everyone has the same rights and can make ‘em stick? No media control, no death squads, nothing. It’s like a third-world country. Ha! But. But, they got thousands, tens of thousands of people out on the streets, telling ‘em how evil, wrong and despicable they are, and nothing happens. No special legislative sessions, no blue ribbon committees, no ‘trials’ by ‘juries’, no reforms of the system. Nothing. I’m not sure if it’s amateur or sublime, but me and Carlos, we’re showing our omnipotence by hiding it, like the black hole at the center of the galaxy. These American big shots, though, they’re laying it all out in the open. Carlos has his druggee thugs, I got a nephew in the right office, the Americans have ‘gender studies postgraduates’.

LI:
Wait, what’s that?

ZHU:
Uh, well, we’re not exactly sure. We think it’s a branch of their educational complex devoted to debating Julia Roberts movies. We’ve been wondering for years what they’re for, and now we think we’ve got it. Anyway, I got some important Party business, so I’m off. Block those watches, call your mom, tell her I say hi, and keep your eyes open. You just might rise above totally useless someday. Buh-bye.

Li, shaken, takes the bottle of expensive Bordeaux out of his desk that he’s been saving for the day of his promotion, orders some Coca-Cola from his secretary, and tries to drink his illusions back into focus.

Zhu, hangs up, straightens his hair in the mirror, checks his pockets to make sure he remembered the condoms and blow, and waits for the driver to open the door. As he saunters towards ‘the club’, he’s hoping that Nadezhda and Viki have healed up and aren’t still angry about ‘last time’.
 

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5 Responses to Convergent Evolution

  1. ThomasR says:

    That was hilarious and awesome. Albeit depressing. As far as convergent evolution goes, neither the US or Chinese government has had to change because of scandals/problems/catastrophes.1 They’re both untouchable, and they just show it in different ways?

    1. See Lewinsky, 9/11, Katrina, economy, jobs, debt ceiling; or high-speed train crash, 08 Olympics, Falun Gong, Tibet/Uyghurs, migrant workers, and, (for both countries) huge unsustainable income gap.

  2. antoinebugleboy says:

    Wow, I have to catch my breath! Laughing and crying at the same time takes a lot out of a man. Bravo, sir, bravo!

  3. 79zombies says:

    I would like this twice if I could. Well done.

  4. suicism says:

    Genius. Sheer genius. I’ve done enough business in China to find this both painfully and hysterically true. Bravo, and more, please.

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